Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A necessary topic... Last Will and Testament

Mortality is a topic that we often avoid.  Nobody likes to think about their final days on the planet.  We would rather live it up right now, and take tomorrow as it comes.  There is nothing wrong with enjoying the moment.  However, the people that you love most have to deal with your affairs after you transition into the after life.  I've watched numerous friends and family members pass away without a will.  I even had to drive to Wisconsin with my family to pull one of my cousins off of life support.  There are some documents that are needed to help ease the pain of the people you love.

A Living Will & Health Care Power of Attorney basically tell people what to do in the event that you are incapacitated.  For example, if you are in a car wreck and you end up on life support, the documentation listed above puts someone in charge of your affairs, and gives an outline of your wishes such as a "do not resuscitate" order, or how long you want to be on machines that keep you alive.

A Last Will and Testament is basically the love letter for the people you leave behind.  If determines who gets your cash, remaining assets, and who raises your children when you and the other parent are no longer alive.  For people with kids, this is REALLY important.  I read a story about how so many kids became wards of the state of NY until a judge decided who would raise them because both of their parents died in the 9/11 tragedy.  I don't know about you, but I don't want some man or woman that doesn't know me or my family deciding who gets my kids when I am gone.  To get all of the documentation done by an attorney that knows the laws in your state, and is suitably proficient in estate planning, it could easily cost you around $1,200 to get done.  I've found a SIGNIFICANTLY LESS EXPENSIVE WAY to get mine done, and the wed link below will give you more info on how you can get yours done as well:


I found some other interesting info on what happens if you die without a will. I have listed it below:

What happens if I die without a Will?

First, a little context is required. If you own any property when you die, then your surviving spouse or family will need to go through a legal process called “Probate” in order to legally wind up your affairs, pay off your debts, and transfer your remaining property to surviving family. The Probate process applies whether you have a Will or not. The only way around the Probate process is to own all of your assets through a Living Trust, but that’s a whole different story…

If you have a valid Will, then the Probate process plays out according to the specific wishes in your Will, which should include details about who is responsible for administering your estate (the “Executor”), who is guardian for your minor children, who gets your assets, and whether those assets are left outright to people or in creditor protected trusts, just to name a few considerations.

After that little bit of background, we can go on to the answer to the question…

If you don’t have a Will, then the Probate process plays out according to default laws in the state(s) where you own property (note that if you own property in multiple states, then different state laws apply to the different properties). Think of these default laws as a generic Will template provided by the state. Contrary to one popular belief, states don’t automatically take all your assets if you don’t have a Will. However, the end result of the Probate process under default state laws may not be anything close to your actual wishes.

Specifically, here are some examples of how the Probate process may be more confusing, costly, and inconsistent with your wishes if you don’t have a Will.

1. Without a Will, your family must agree who will be the Executor of your estate, and this can cause tension and power struggles.

2. If you are survived by minor children and there is no other living parent, your family and the courts must determine who will be Guardian for your children. This can cause an even bigger conflict.

3. Without a Will, state default laws determine who gets your assets, and this may not be consistent with your wishes. For example, certain state default laws can force your assets to be divided between your surviving spouse and your children (even babies). In addition to being inconsistent with your wishes, this can create additional costs and complexities in the Probate process.

4. Without a Will, you miss the opportunity to create one or more trusts to protect assets for your family or friends against creditor claims, including claims by a divorcing spouse.

5. Without a Will, the Probate process can be more costly and subject to more oversight by the court system, which must play a larger role due to the absence of specific wishes from the deceased person.

If you die without a valid Will in place, then the process of winding up your affairs will be more confusing, costly, and contentious for your family. Most likely, the end result will be inconsistent with your wishes.


For less than a dollar a day, you can have access to a team of attorneys to handle not only your will, but other areas of your life as well